HTC brings pen input back to the world of tablets 

Maybe it's because deep down we are nostalgic for resistive touchscreens of old, but we have to admit we're seriously geeking out over HTC Scribe, the technology that allows you to use an honest-to-god writing implement with the HTC View 4G - see our hands-on here.

If you're not familiar, here's how it works: HTC is selling a capacitive stylus that talks to the View 4G over Bluetooth and lets you take notes directly on the screen. On the View itself, they've replaced the standard search button with a context-aware Stylus button. When you're in a context where you can't write on the screen, the button is red and serves as a shortcut to stylus-aware apps. When you can use the stylus, it turns green and it's writing time, baby.

More impressions and photos and video after the break!

Right now, HTC has a small set of apps that work with Scribe: A sketch/notes app, a note-taking app that syncs with Evernote, and an app for letting you take notes on screenshots.

When you tap on the stylus button, you get an array of pen size and color options. You can then just write or draw directly on the screen with your selected options. There's no handwriting recognition, but it is nice to finally be able to take stylus to screen for some proper note-taking. You can also hit record to record audio in two of the apps. You can then play back the audio - in one app it simply jumps to the note as you play back and in another it actually re-draws your work in time with the audio. Unfortunately, you can't tap on your note and jump to the relevant piece of audio, a feature we dearly love about the LiveScribe system.

The Stylus itself is well-weighted and comfortable to hold. It's pressure sensitive and sports two context-variable buttons that alternately erase, highlight, and select text.  It's all powered by one AAAA (that's quadruple A) battery.

You can tap the screen with the stylus in the browser to instantly take a screenshot and open the sketch app, where you can toss notes up and send it along.

Is HTC Scribe the incredible pen-based future we're dreaming of? Not quite - we'll need to spend a lot more time getting a feel for how the pen glides across the screen and the lack of handwriting recognition has us a little bummed. Still, with a little more iteration on the software side (and perhaps some third-party app developer support) we could see ourselves really using Scribe in class and meetings. 

[YouTube Link]


Reader comments

HTC Scribe First Impressions on the HTC View 4G; Updated with video!



Hoping that the note taking app has
1. a choice of stationery (e.g., graph paper, music staff paper)
2. a way to export a note to print or pdf.

Finally, a Newton 3000. I've used my 2100 for 13 years to take longhand notes. Still works great. But the Flyer/View looks like the product that can replace it.

I've decided to stay out of the tablet game for at least the first year, but the flyer looks NICE!!! way to go sprint & HTC!!!!

Trying to imagine how this is useful for any real purpose. Why would I want to play back my note-taking? Looks like both HTC devices have their geek-out gimicks. :)

The wording of this article has me raising an eyebrow. Is the Scribe a passive capacitive stylus, an active digitizer pen, or some weird bastardization of the two?

I feel like if it were a true active digitizer pen they'd just come out and say it, so judging from the stuff about using Bluetooth to talk to the tablet, it sounds like a bastardized version.

Also, around where the reflection of the lights hits the screen it looks like there is a grid of reflective points in the screen, like what resistive screens have but spread farther apart. Wonder if that is part of the system too?

Could the grid just be there to enable the capacitive touch aspect of the screen? Most of the capacitive touchscreen phones I've owned have had the grid. I guess if the pen is to some extent capacitive, it would utilize the grid too.

I'd want handwriting recognition, or at least a shortcut system like Graffiti, before I'd go for this. I like that they're trying, though.

Apps will follow people. Where is you imagination? I'm a contractor for example. I record, as I draw. I send it to the jobsite. Now the Nimrod at the other end 'get's it' Problem solved. ( now drawing for the next numbskull:)

This would be the perfect tool for me and many other artist, if only....

....this had the sensitivity of a WACOM tablet / stylus and be able to run full programs like Painter and Photoshop - or even "sketch book" versions of those programs, with built in camera to import images taken on location to use as a background layer for a sketch or painting.

You could then import your sketches into the full programs when you get back to your studio.
It would be the perfect sketch book.

Regardless of how smooth the stylus is on the view, it will eventually scratch the screen. Does anyone know How resistant the screen is to scratches or dull areas due to constant use of the stylus?